Category Archives: Google LatLong Blog

News and notes by the Google Earth and Maps team

Google Maps gets a new look

The world is an ever-evolving place. And as it changes, Google Maps changes with it. As roads close, businesses open, or local events happen in your neighborhood, you’ll see it on Google Maps. When you schedule an event using Google Calendar, get a reservation confirmation in Gmail, or add a restaurant to your “Want to Go” list, Google Maps reflects that too. Now, we’re updating Google Maps with a new look that better reflects your world, right now.

First, we’ve updated the driving, navigation, transit and explore maps to better highlight the information most relevant to each experience (think gas stations for navigation, train stations for transit, and so on). We’ve also updated our color scheme and added new icons to help you quickly identify exactly what kind of point of interest you’re looking at. Places like a cafe, church, museum or hospital will have a designated color and icon, so that it’s easy to find that type of destination on the map. For example, if you’re in a new neighborhood and searching for a coffee shop, you could open the map to find the nearest orange icon (which is the color for Food & Drink spots).

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We’ve created a cheat sheet of the new colors and icons to help you get acquainted with the new look:

You’ll see these changes over the next few weeks in all Google products that incorporate Google Maps, including the Assistant, Search, Earth, and Android Auto. Over time, the new style will also appear in the apps, websites and experiences offered by companies that use Google Maps APIs as well. 

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So no matter how or where you’re using Google Maps, you’ll have the same consistent experience.

Source: Google LatLong


Spend more time around the table (not in traffic) this Thanksgiving

Many Americans will spend next Thursday surrounded by family and friends around a table full of turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce (or whatever your family favorites are). Because traveling for Thanksgiving can be stressful, we looked at historical Google Maps traffic data to identify the best and worst times for your Thanksgiving road trips. And just for fun, we took a peek at the places Google Maps users are most often getting directions to during the holiday week. To look at this a bit more closely, we’ve created an interactive experience where you can explore Thanksgiving trends in your area.


Tips for a traffic-free Turkey Day

Because many of us can’t or don’t take off extra days leading up to Thanksgiving, we looked at last year’s traffic trends the day before Thanksgiving through the Sunday after. As you might expect, Wednesday late afternoon is the busiest time to hit the road, but it’s pretty much smooth sailing the morning of Thanksgiving. So if you can wait until Turkey Day, you might be able to avoid the crowds on the road.


To make your travels as efficient as possible, don’t forget to share your trip with the in-laws so they’ll know exactly when you’ll arrive. And if you forgot the stuffing you promised to bring to the potluck, just search for an open supermarket along your route to quickly pick it up without adding a long detour—you can even see how much time you can expect to spend in the checkout line with our new wait times feature (now available on Google Maps for Android).


When the eating is all over and it’s time to head home, early morning on Saturday or Sunday are your best bets (just make sure to avoid the road when traffic heats up on Friday and Saturday in the late afternoon).

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Trending places over Thanksgiving  

Every family has their unique holiday traditions—like Dad’s dash to the tree lot the day after Thanksgiving. According to historical Google Maps search data, the most popular destinations over the Thanksgiving holiday period are ham shops, outlet malls, tree farms, natural features (think outdoor experiences), and electronics stores.

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When you’re not digging into your food, dig into the Turkey Day traffic and Google Maps search trends for your city in our interactive experience. Happy Thanksgiving!

Source: Google LatLong


Skip the line: restaurant wait times on Search and Maps

When it comes to a saucy bowl of pasta or a perfectly cooked steak, people are willing to wait in (long) lines for a taste of their favorite comfort foods. Rolling out soon, wait times on Google Search (and coming soon to Maps) shows you the estimated wait at your favorite restaurants. Now you can decide whether that cronut is really worth an hour wait or plan ahead to get your fix at a time when you can avoid a wait entirely.

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To see wait times for nearly a million sit-down restaurants around the world that allow walk-ins, just search for the restaurant on Google, open the business listing, and scroll down to the Popular Times section. There you’ll see the estimated wait time at that very moment. And by tapping on any of the hour bars, you’ll see the estimated wait for that time period. You can even scroll left and right to see a summary of each day’s wait times below the hour bars–so you can plan ahead to beat the crowds.


Wait time estimates are based on anonymized historical data, similar to how we compute the previously launched Popular Times and Visit Duration features.

Source: Google LatLong


Getting hyper-local: Mapping street-level air quality across California

Most air pollution is measured at a city level, but air quality can change block by block, hour by hour and day to day. To better understand air quality on a more local level, we began working with our partner Aclima — to map air pollution across California using Google Street View cars—equipped with air quality sensors.  Earlier this year, we shared the the first results of this effort with pollution levels throughout the city of Oakland.

We're just beginning to understand what's possible with this hyper-local information and today, we’re starting to share some of our findings for the three California regions we’ve mapped: the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and California’s Central Valley (the Street View cars drove 100,000 miles, over the course of 4,000 hours to collect this data!) Scientists and air quality specialists can use this information to assist local organizations, governments, and regulators in identifying opportunities to achieve greater air quality improvements and solutions.

Over 195 nations will gather in Bonn for the COP23 UN Climate Climate Change conference this week. Rising to the climate challenge will involve a  mix of policy, technology and international cooperation and we believe that insights about air quality at the community level can help support both local and global action on climate. Below we’ve highlighted some of our findings for these regions. 

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Over a three month period, our Street View cars mapped air quality in different areas of Los Angeles, ranging from urban to residential, inland to the Pacific Ocean, and areas near major freeways, ports, or refineries. The measurements indicate that traffic-choked freeways, traffic on local streets, and weather patterns that blow pollution inland all influence the patterns of air pollution.

Air quality measurements in Los Angeles region (Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, IBCAO, Data LDEO-Columbia, NSF, Data USGS, Data CSUMB SFML, CA OPC)

Air quality measurements in Los Angeles region (Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, IBCAO, Data LDEO-Columbia, NSF, Data USGS, Data CSUMB SFML, CA OPC)

Compared to Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, which we mapped over the past two years, is a higher density city. A large percentage of air pollution emissions comes from vehicles like cars, trucks, and construction equipment, and industrial sources like refineries and power plants added to the mix. The measurements here indicate street-level pollution patterns are affected by these local and distributed sources.

Air quality measurements in the San Francisco Bay Area region (TerraMetrics, Data CSUMB SFML, CA OPC, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Data LDEO-Columbia, NSF, Data MBARI, Landsat / Copernicus)

Air quality measurements in the San Francisco Bay Area region (TerraMetrics, Data CSUMB SFML, CA OPC, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Data LDEO-Columbia, NSF, Data MBARI, Landsat / Copernicus)

While much of California’s Central Valley is rural with a lot of agriculture, it’s also home to cities, such as Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton, and Modesto. Interstate 5 and Interstate 99 are two major traffic corridors that run through the region, connecting Northern and Southern California. Interstate and regional traffic, along with industry and agriculture, are sources of air pollution in the region. Weather conditions and topography can trap air pollution between the coast and the Sierra Nevada mountains resulting in a chronic ozone and particulate matter levels that exceed public health standards.

Air quality measurements in California’s Central Valley region (Landsat / Copernicus, Data MBARI, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Data LDEO-Columbia, NSF, Data CSUMB SFML, CA OPC, Data USGS)

Air quality measurements in California’s Central Valley region (Landsat / Copernicus, Data MBARI, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Data LDEO-Columbia, NSF, Data CSUMB SFML, CA OPC, Data USGS)

So far, we’ve measured over one billion air quality data points but this is just the beginning—and now air quality scientists can request access to the data. Air quality impacts our planet and our health—and we hope this information helps us build smarter more sustainable cities, reduce climate changing greenhouse gases and improve air quality for healthier living.

Tune in to Aclima’s blog for more data stories from our California driving campaign in the coming days and weeks.

Source: Google LatLong


Trick-or-treat for Street View Frights!

If you’re trick-or-treating on Halloween, you might see a ghost or two. But take this tour of haunted houses and spooky sites on Street View -- and the ghosts are no trick.


Our first stop is the Château Laurier, a 660,000-square-foot hotel that looms above the Ottawa River. Over the past 105 years, this architectural majesty has been graced by the likes of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. But these dignitaries are not the only ones to walk its halls over the years … the restless spirit of business tycoon Charles Melville Hays has been known to appear. He commissioned the Château Laurier, but died tragically aboard the Titanic just days before the hotel’s grand opening in 1912. It's believed his spirit returned shortly after, and on occasion has been spotted roaming inside and out.

Head over to The French Quarter in New Orleans where both the living and dead are having a blood curdling good time. The soft sounds of jazz and the faint smell of beignets waft through the streets, but the dark side of this city is as rich as its melodies and cuisine—around every corner there are ghosts and vampires to be seen. Venture into Hotel Monteleone, where there have been many spooky sightings. This haunted hotel has a restaurant door that opens almost every evening then closes again (even though it’s locked) and an elevator that stops on the wrong floor, leading down a hallway that grows chilly and reveals the ghostly images of children playing. Stay there if you dare—you won’t know when to expect the next surprise.

Now let’s head to the lush green paradise on Oman Island in the Philippines. Don’t let the beautiful landscape deceive you—this place has its fair share of spirits known to pester passers by. Local lore claims there are travelers who trek in circles, never finding their way out … and travelers have reported suddenly feeling weight on their backs, almost as if local ghosts are hunched on their shoulders.

If iconic horror films are your jam, head on over to Georgetown, Washington, D.C., where the Exorcist was filmed. In “The Exorcist,” the character Father Damien Karras fell to his death down  this flight of stairs (though they were padded with half an inch of rubber). The film crew had to construct a false front to the house from which Karras fell, since the actual house was set back slightly from the steps. When the filming took place, Georgetown University students charged people $5 each to watch the stunt from the school’s rooftops.

“Let the Right One In” is a Swedish film about a bullied 12-year-old boy who befriends a vampire child in Blackeberg, Stockholm, in the early 1980s. Check out the town square of Blackeberg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackeberg

, where Eli the vampire leaps down on Virginia from a tree.


That completes our tour, but beware of spooky things of which you may not be forewarned— for this is Halloween!

Source: Google LatLong


Making search results more local and relevant

When you’re searching on Google, we aim to provide the most useful results for your query. Today, around one in five searches on Google is related to location, so providing locally relevant search results is an essential part of serving you the most accurate information.


In order to provide this optimal experience, your location determines the country service you receive results for across Google Search and Maps. Historically, these services have been labeled and accessed via country code top level domain names (ccTLD) such as [google.ng for Nigeria] or [google.com.br for Brazil]. You may also have typed in the relevant ccTLD in your browser.


Today, we’ve updated the way we label country services on the mobile web, the Google app for iOS, and desktop Search and Maps. Now the choice of country service will no longer be indicated by domain. Instead, by default, you’ll be served the country service that corresponds to your location. So if you live in Australia, you’ll automatically receive the country service for Australia, but when you travel to New Zealand, your results will switch automatically to the country service for New Zealand. Upon return to Australia, you will seamlessly revert back to the Australian country service.

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If for some reason you don't see the right country when you're browsing, you can still go into settings and select the correct country service you want to receive. Typing the relevant ccTLD in your browser will no longer bring you to the various country services—this preference should be managed directly in settings. In addition, at the bottom of the search results page, you can clearly see which country service you are currently using.

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It’s important to note that while this update will change the way Google Search and Maps services are labeled, it won’t affect the way these products work, nor will it change how we handle obligations under national law. This update will help ensure that you get the most relevant results based on your location and is consistent with how Google already manages our services across a number of our other platforms, including YouTube, Blogger, Google Earth and Gmail, among others.


We’re confident this change will improve your Search experience, automatically providing you with the most useful information based on your search query and other context, including location.

Source: Google LatLong


From paw prints to a digital footprint: a tailor shop attracts new customers

A chubby French Bulldog keeps watch in front of a vintage-looking tailor shop in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood. Meet Bruno, the face of Village Tailor and Cleaners. Vince, the shop’s owner, immigrated to the U.S. from Italy when he was just 18 years old, establishing Village Tailor in 1977. Today, his family-run business has grown into three locations and is best known for its skilled leather and suede alterations. Inside the shop, a wall covered in autographed photos of celebrity customers—Celine Dion, Marc Anthony, Elton John, and others—is a testament to the iconic quality of Vince's work.

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Vince and Bruno outside the shop.

While Bruno had been doing a wonderful job bringing in passersby, Vince knew he needed a way to stand out from the many tailoring shops in SoHo and reach more customers.


Vince noticed that most of his customers were walking in with a bag of clothes in one hand, and researching local businesses on their cell phone with the other. So, he decided to get his business online. He saw it as similar to Bruno sitting out front: their online presence could spark curiosity, help them stand out, and invite in new customers.

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Bruno is on the lookout for new customers ... and treats.

He set up Village Tailor's Google listing, so that he could edit how his business appears when people find it on Google Search and Maps. He added photos to his listing, posted updates about his skilled alterations, and used Google website builder to create a free high-quality website from his phone in less than 10 minutes. Now, when he asks new customers how they found his shop, they often mention Google.

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Having an online presence not only helped Vince reach new customers, but it allowed him to build relationships with his existing customers by responding to reviews. Knowing that people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, reviews are an opportunity to adapt his business to customers’ needs. The results have been great for Village Tailor: within weeks of getting online, Vince noticed they were bringing in on average five more customers per week. After three months, that number increased to 15 per week, representing a 30% revenue increase per year for Vince. 

The store’s early success with Google My Business inspired Vince to try AdWords, advertising to potential customers searching on Google for keywords related to tailoring. Since customers raved about the leather and suede work in Village Tailor’s Google reviews, Vince focused on those services in his online ads which brought in even more revenue. That meant he could hire more tailors and invest in new equipment to keep up with the long lines of customers. Now, while Bruno will always have a place in front of Village Tailor, Google brings in most of their customers. Sorry Bruno!

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Father and son: two generations of excellence in alterations.

Today, Vince’s son Vincent Jr. manages Village Cobbler, the shoe repair shop next door. Continuing the family business’s tradition of excellent craftsmanship in shoes and leather goods, his newest mission is to get Village Cobbler 100% online, with an eCommerce website that offers shipping all over the U.S. He also plans to find new customers with Google My Business and Google AdWords, just like his father has, to keep the family business growing.

Source: Google LatLong


Space out with planets in Google Maps

Twenty years ago, the spacecraft Cassini launched from Cape Canaveral on a journey to uncover the secrets of Saturn and its many moons. During its mission, Cassini recorded and sent nearly half a million pictures back to Earth, allowing scientists to reconstruct these distant worlds in unprecedented detail. Now you can visit these places—along with many other planets and moons—in Google Maps right from your computer. For extra fun, try zooming out from the Earth until you're in space!

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Explore the icy plains of Enceladus, where Cassini discovered water beneath the moon's crust—suggesting signs of life. Peer beneath the thick clouds of Titan to see methane lakes. Inspect the massive crater of Mimas—while it might seem like a sci-fi look-a-like, it is a moon, not a space station.  

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Special thanks goes to astronomical artist Björn Jónsson, who assembled the planetary maps of Europa, Ganymede, Rhea, and Mimas by working with imagery from NASA and the European Space Agency.

The fun doesn't stop there—we've added Pluto, Venus, and several other moons for a total of 12 new worlds for you to explore. Grab your spacesuit and check out the rest of this corner of the galaxy that we call home.

Source: Google LatLong


Street View goes to the “top of the world”

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Emma Upton, Quttinirpaaq National Park Manager with Parks Canada. She shares the story behind our new Street View collection that captures the beauty of Canada’s Quttinirpaaq National Park.

Here at Parks Canada, we have a lot to say about Quttinirpaaq National Park. We could tell you it’s the northernmost park in Canada, or that it lies roughly 500 miles (800 kilometers) from the North Pole. We could tell you it’s home to 4000-year-old archeologist sites or that it’s the second-largest national park in the country. But, we don’t need to tell you anymore. Now we can show you, with our new Street View collection.

Last summer, our team threw on the Google Trekker and explored the park’s incredible terrain—it was the furthest north Street View has ever gone. Wilderness and extreme isolation characterize this area, where fewer than 50 people visit each year. The park’s name itself translates to “the top of the world” in Inuktitut, the local indigenous language.

Google Street View in Quttinirpaaq National Park and Grise Fiord, Nunavut

With treks along the ocean shoreline, climbs up to lofty ridges, strolls beside glacial melt-water rivers, and scrambles at the foot of monumental glaciers, the resulting imagery is spectacular—a digital reflection of one of the world’s most rural locations

Aside from Quttinirpaaq National Park, we captured Street view imagery of Grise Fiord, Canada’s northernmost community, and Resolute Bay, which has a population of just under 200 people.

Internet access and bandwidth are challenging in this part of the world, but we wanted the people who live in and around the area to be able to enjoy the new Street View collection. We revealed the imagery, as well as the behind-the-scenes story of how it was captured, at an event hosted by Parks Canada. And we were moved to see how excited people were to see their remote home online for the world to explore.

See all the highlights in this gallery, and a few photos of our trek below:

Source: Google LatLong


The Agoraphobic Traveller shares her Street View portraits

Editor’s note: Jacqui Kenny is a New Zealander who now lives in London, U.K. On World Mental Health Day, we asked Jacqui to tell her story about a surprising use of Street View.


For over 20 years I have lived with severe anxiety, and eight years ago I was diagnosed with agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations where you might feel panicked, trapped, helpless or embarrassed. Sometimes walking to my local supermarket can be a challenge, let alone traveling far from home.


Almost two years ago, after closing down a decade-old business I had co-founded, I lost confidence in myself, and my agoraphobia worsened. I wasn’t ready to face the world, but I knew I needed a creative outlet to help keep the negative thoughts away.


I found a surprising and unique refuge in the creative possibilities of Google Street View. As I clicked through Google Maps, I left my London home and navigated the streets of faraway countries like Mongolia, Senegal, and Chile. I encountered remote towns and dusty landscapes, vibrant architectural gems, and anonymous people, all frozen in time. The more I traveled, the more I found scenes that appeared to be plucked from a strange and expansive parallel universe. What began as a hobby quickly became a pursuit of the hidden, magical realms of Street View.


I began to take thousands of screenshots of these dreamlike scenarios; to date I’ve taken 27,000 screenshots. I realized that the billions of photographs that Google captured for functional purposes were ripe for creativity. And when framed and angled with care, they could be as beautiful and emotional as traditional photography. I had found a way to experience places across the world that I had long yearned to explore but would find hard to travel to in real life.

agoraphobic traveler

I started to upload my images to Instagram, where I found a supportive community of both creatives and people that share similar struggles with mental health and anxiety disorders. I receive messages daily from people that want to share their own stories with me.


The community I had built around my photos helped embolden me to go outside my comfort zone. When I was offered the opportunity to have a solo exhibition in Nolita, New York, I got on a plane for the first time in many years years. I was offered the opportunity to have a solo exhibition in New York, NY. The Agoraphobic Traveller exhibition showcases a series of my favorite images, as well as a series of 360 experiences that help explain my process. On opening night, hundreds of people turned up to show their support, many from my Instagram community. It was a night I’ll never forget.


World Mental Health Day, October 10, is a time to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world. By telling my story and sharing my own experiences, I want to help de-stigmatize and normalize the conversation around mental health. I hope my journey will encourage others not only to open up and talk about their mental health struggles but also to look for creative ways to get through the tough moments.


If you want to say hi or see more of my work, you can find me on Instagram.

Source: Google LatLong